COMMENT: Rape victims need support, not suspicion

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You've already suffered the awful trauma of being raped. Then try to imagine summoning up the strength and courage needed to report the offence to police and be required to relive it in painful detail.

Victims could be forgiven for not wanting to put themselves through such an ordeal. Yet  their testimony is vital to securing a conviction. Without it, the prosecution's job is made much more difficult.
We reveal today how a total of 1,925 rapes were recorded by Hampshire Constabulary in the 12 months to March 31, 2018. Over the same period the Crown Prosecution Service charged just 76 cases, of which 45 led to successful convictions.
Of the rapes recorded, 1,290 were of a female aged 16+, 176 of a female under 13 and 282 of a female aged 14 to 16, while 66 rapes were of a male aged 16+, 84 rapes of a male under 13 and 27 of a male aged 14 to 16.
So why did so few of these rapes end up in court? Is it that the process of reporting needs to be improved, or is it that victims still feel they will not be believed if they come forward?
Detective Superintendent Paul Barton from Hampshire Constabulary says the force is working hard with the CPS to improve the charge rate for rape.  He makes the valid point that many rape cases involve parties known to each other, are complex and come down to a question of consent.
The number of reports of rape in the county has increased, suggesting that victims are becoming more confident about going to the police because they know they will be treated with compassion and professionalism. 
It may also be that the work of the police in raising awareness of sexual offences has had an effect.
But as Shona Dillon, chief executive of domestic abuse charity Aurora New Dawn, says, more still needs to be done.
She adds: 'It is our view that there needs to be a societal shift in the attitude towards sexual violence victims. It is still all too common for victims not to be believed.'
If this is the case, then we all have a responsibility to challenge our perceptions and realise that victims deserve support rather than suspicion.